Architectural Record magazine's August 2004 issue features Gehry Partners’ designed MIT Stata Center on pages 97 - 111. Zahner designed, engineered, fabricated and installed the modular panel system and the shingle skins. Zahner was also responsible for the custom window boxes that make up one of the dynamic components of the exterior façade.

Everywhere on the project where there is a metal shingle, Zahner fabricated the custom stud wall behind it. Shingles consist of painted aluminum yellow and white areas plus stainless steel both conventional hemmed shingles and a custom interlocking system too. Zahner also produced a custom corrugation for some titanium cladding.

The article discusses how the design team developed the building, and how its concept came from a metaphor. Craig Webb, of Frank Gehry Partners discusses how this concept evolved:

To “put their heads in a different place,” explains Webb, the firm made models using analogies drawn from other cultures to illustrate possible social models of research... Rachel Allen, a staffer in Gehry’s office, came up with the idea of using examples from animal communities. One model featured an architectural prairie-dog town. With private spaces below, “you would ‘pop your head up’ to see what others are doing in the communal space,” explained Webb. 

Then came the orangutans. Since family groups spend their days together on the ground but sleep in separate nests in trees, the firm made a model that placed spaces for quiet, private work a level above areas for meeting, relaxing, and conversation. They hated that, too, said Gehry. “They thought we were calling them orangutans. But it started the conversation, and made what we’ve built possible.” 

Out of these intense discussions came a building that makes, as Mitchell calls it, “a broth of people to enable new intersections of thought and ideas to happen.”


Stata Center at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Stata Center at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts

The article, written by James S. Russell, AIA. The article can be read in full in print, or visit the “Architectural Record” website.